Thursday, 4 September 2008

Marriage Licences continued

The one factor I hadn’t thought about is cost. There has now been national publicity about the rise in the number of applications for marriage licences (the local phenomenon about which I posted on 10th August). It is a side effect of Government attempts to monitor the possibility of ‘sham weddings’. A person subject to immigration control now has to pay £295 simply to get a certificate allowing him or her to apply for marriage by Superintendent Registrar Certificate. That is a £590 surcharge if it is a couple. No wonder an increasing number have spotted the possibility of being married in church by licence instead.

Last week’s Church Times has an article beginning ‘foreigners are using a loophole... to gain the right of abode’ and links this to ‘a steep rise in the number of... licences’. It is in danger of confusing finding a loophole through which to smuggle a sham wedding (which will apply to a tiny number of those for whom a licence is issued) and behaving in a sensible informed way to avoid a huge extra fee (which will apply especially to all licences we issue where both parties are foreign nationals, whose marriage doesn’t effect their right of abode anyway).

It is all part of a bigger picture. Relatively new rules designed to stop money laundering by those involved in a tiny proportion of banking activity means that small clubs setting up bank accounts and local charities changing signatories on their accounts are among the huge number who have to jump through the extra hoops of proving identity. The importance of protecting children and the vulnerable elderly from the abusive behaviour of a few means parish time and diocesan resources are quite rightly caught up in the process of making criminal record checks on absolutely everyone involved in any work of this nature in church. And now all those subject to immigration control who wish to marry here are paying the price of the blanket vigilance which is judged necessary to detect the small number among them involved in sham weddings.

The picture isn’t relevant to this post but is a further one from Thornton Abbey; I’ve promised myself I won’t go on including these for ever.

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